NO-Xplode: Will It Do More Than Xplode Your Wallet?

Girl SquattingImage provided by greg westfall

NO-Xplode is a supplement used by a lot of people seeking to make better strength gains. It’s not the only one of its kind. All NO products (Nitric Oxide) promise some version of the following:

  • From the very first serving you will experience elevated physical and mental energy
  • Getting you physically and mentally dialed in for the training session that lies before you
  • Once you train with N.O.-XPLODE, you will never train without it
  • One of the most advanced pre-workout igniters in existence, offering serious athletes the ultimate in training intensity and performance
  • Pre-workout supplementation is also more convenient than ever
  • Diet supplements
That was taken straight from NO-Xplode on

But does it really do all that it says it does?

When you talk to people in the gym who take NO products, they will usually tell you that they work extremely well, they have more energy, and it gives them a better “pump” while training.

First of all, let’s ignore the fact that many NO products have caffeine and creatine in them, which could be contributing (if not being the sole reason) for the supplement “working” or giving them more energy.

How do NO products work?

All NO products have a non-essential amino acid called arginine in them.  Arginine is supposedly converted into a chemical called Nitric Oxide which then causes blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow. Other companies have claimed that arginine (or L-arginine) also stimulates the release of growth hormone, insulin, and other substances in the body.  This widening of the blood vessels is said to give people a greater “pump” in the gym which can result in increased endurance, time to fatigue, etc.

Some people mistakenly claim that NO or arginine makes them stronger.  The supplement companies don’t even usually say this.

OK, so does it WORK?

This is where we will have to take a look at the research. In a 2011 study by Greer et. al. “Acute arginine supplementation fails to improve muscle endurance or affect blood pressure responses to resistance training”.

“Twelve trained college-aged men (22.6 ± 3.8 years) performed 2 trials of exercise separated by at least 1 week. At 4 hours before, and 30 minutes before exercise, a serving of an AAKG supplement (3,700 mg arginine alpha-ketoglutarate per serving) or placebo was administered. Resting BP was assessed pre-exercise after 16 minutes of seated rest, and 5 and 10 minutes postexercise. Three sets each of chin-ups, reverse chin-ups, and push-ups were performed to exhaustion with 3 minutes of rest between each set. Data were analyzed using repeated-measures analysis of variance and paired t-tests.”
They had 12 men lift with or without arginine. They didn’t know which time was which because they were given a placebo the time that they did not take arginine.  Let’s see the results, shall we?

“The AAKG supplementation did not improve muscle endurance or significantly affect the BP response to anaerobic work. Subjects performed fewer total chin-ups (23.75 ± 6.38 vs. 25.58 ± 7.18) and total trial repetitions (137.92 ± 28.18 vs. 141.08 ± 28.57) in the supplement trial (p ? 0.05). Subjects executed fewer reverse chin-ups (5.83 ± 1.85 vs. 6.75 ± 2.09) during set 2 after receiving the supplement as compared to the placebo (p < 0.05). Because AAKG supplementation may hinder muscular endurance, the use of these supplements before resistance training should be questioned.”
So not only did arginine not have any performance benefits, but the subjects actually performed worse when they took arginine!  Although the differences weren’t that great, it is still a great case against arginine, especially since the arginine was not combined with caffeine, creatine, or anything else.

Onto Study Number 2:

A 2009 study by Fahs et. al. wanted to examine the effect of acute L-arginine supplementation and resistance exercise on arterial function.

Some people thought that resistance exercise would increase arterial stiffness, and this could be bad for the heart, etc.
What does this have to do with muscle gain?

Because to test this, and it’s change with added arginine, the researchers had to test change the hemodynamic and vascular responses to resistance exercise (read: getting a pump).
“Eighteen (N = 18) young men (24.2 +/- 0.7 yr) volunteered for this study. In a crossover design, subjects underwent body composition testing, 1-repetition maximum testing for the bench press and the biceps curls and performed two acute bouts of resistance exercise in which they consumed either placebo or 7 g L-arginine before each resistance exercise bout. Anthropometric measures, augmentation index (AIx), arterial stiffness, and forearm blood flow (FBF) were assessed before and after each treatment condition.”
The main thing that we are interested here is the FBF (forearm blood flow), as this will tell us if it is increasing the blood flow in the working muscles like it is said to.

“There were significant (P < 0.05) time effects after the resistance exercise; there was a reduction in brachial stiffness (P = 0.0001), an increase in central aortic stiffness (P = 0.004), an increase in AIx (P = 0.023), an increase in FBF (P = 0.000), and an increase in arm circumference (P = 0.0001) after exercise.” “The increase in central arterial stiffness and wave reflection was not attenuated by acute supplementation with L-arginine; furthermore, blood flow was not augmented with supplementation. On the basis of these data, l-arginine does not appear to change the hemodynamic and vascular responses to resistance exercise.”
Thus, it the results showed that oral arginine supplementation basically had no effect on anything at all. 

Note that I seem to remember there being a study done with arginine in the past showing a lot of benefits in terms of muscular endurance. However, that study gave the arginine intravenously, not orally. Gotta watch out for those tricksters 😉

So, taking arginine as a supplement really doesn’t do anything according to the studies above, and my hunch is that further studies will just confirm this.  It makes sense that arginine doesn’t do anything since it is a non-essential amino acid that is already being made by our bodies; so it plausible that our bodies are already making enough of it if we get adequate protein intake.

Instead of spending your money on NO-Xplode or anything similar, why not save some of your money and buy only the stuff that does work?  Some active ingredients in NO-Xplode include caffeine and creatine, both of which you can buy separately and use at your own discretion.